Some people believe that dreams are prophetic messages that prepare us for the future, while others are convinced that they are a series of symbols in need of interpretation. Dreaming is often understood as a way for our own psyche to provide us with insight. What if dreams were simply meaningless arrangements of fragmented memories that play out as our bodies rest? Many beliefs attempt to explain the purpose of experiencing these thoughts, images and sensations while we sleep; however, is there a critical role that dreams play in our lives?
Simply stated, “Yes!”
Studies have found that dreaming helps us process emotions through encoding and constructing memories of them. While our dreams may be extremely bizarre and imaginary, the emotions that are attached to them are very real. Even “bad” dreams can improve our emotional wellness. Dreaming soothes our leftover negative emotions from the day. Then, it integrates the calmed emotions into our sense of self. With good sleep habits, we are able to better control our emotional responses to different situations.
So, what are your dreams telling you? Try keeping a dream journal! Here are some steps:
- Select a journal. Whether you use a notebook, purchase a dream journal or download an app on your phone, choose a method that works best for you.
- Keep the journal near you.When you wake up, you’ll want your journal to be in a convenient location while your dream is fresh in your memory!
- Record your dreams. Log the things that you remember from your dreams. Note the location, images, thoughts and situations. Try and remember any significant emotions that stuck with you.
- Reflect. What stands out the most to you? Are there any themes? What emotions might your brain be trying to work through?
We spend a decent portion of our lives sleeping and, thus, dreaming. Maybe we should dedicate more time to exploring our inner Dreamland!
by Taylor Adams
Taylor is a 2015-16 intern in LifeStance Health's Student Practicum Program. She is in the John Carroll University Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master's Program.